iTunes Match Set Up Walkthrough

In this screencast I walk through the set up process for iTunes Match. I talk about what iTunes Match is and record my process of signing up and starting the match process. In future screencasts I will show other tips and tricks to making iTunes Match work for your music collection. So far iTunes Match has been a great way to get all of our music on all our household devices. Check out the screencast and see what you think. Enjoy!


Family Advent

One of the things I love about Christmas is celebrating advent with my family. There is something about the lights, the time off the kids have from school, and their wonderment that makes remembering what God did for us in sending Jesus to this world to live among us and bring us salvation such a special time. As a family we spend time weekly leading up to Christmas remembering different parts of the Christmas story. I thought I would share the format we are using this year in this blog post. I know it is late in the season and Christmas is almost here, but take a couple of the ideas and see if they work with your family. Merry Christmas and enjoy celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Day 1: Angel’s Announcement to Mary and Joseph

Read: Luke 1:26-38 (Mary); Matthew 1:25 (Joseph)
Question to Ponder: What do you think it was like to get a message from an angel? What does it mean that the angel told them about Jesus ahead of time?

Activity: Take a moment and write down one thing the Lord has told you or taught you this past year. Then share that thought with the family.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for working through ordinary people like Mary and Joseph and for their faith and trust in you. May we respond to the things you are trying to teach us in our lives in the same way they did to the message of Jesus’ birth. Thank you for all you did to tell us ahead of time that Jesus was coming in your word. Amen.

Day 2: Shepherd’s encounter with the Angels and Jesus

Read: Luke 2:8-20
Question: Why do you think the shepherds were so excited? What do you think it looked like to glorify and praise God?

Activity: Write a thank you letter to Jesus for all he has done for you. Be sure to thank him for who he is and share why you are excited to celebrate his birthday. Place the cards under the tree so we can read them out loud on Christmas morning.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for coming down to this earth as a human just like we are and for showing us how to live. We are excited to celebrate your birthday with you this month and look forward to the day we can celebrate with you forever in heaven. Amen.

Day 3: Wisemen Bring Gifts

Read: Matthew 2:1-18
Question to Ponder: What did each of the gifts the wisemen brought signify? Where they worth a lot?

Activity: Make an ornament to hang on the tree as a gift to Jesus. Write one thing you want to give him this year from your life. It could be sharing with others or anything you want.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of life that you have given us by coming to this earth, dying for us, and being resurrected from the dead so we can have that new life. Help us to be wise in our own lives like the wisemen were in how they responded to Herod. We give you our lives as you gave yours for us. Amen.

Day 4: Jesus’ Birthday

Read: Luke 2-1-20 & John 1:1-14
Question to Ponder: Why is Jesus’ birthday so important?

Activity: Tell the Christmas story using the nativity set as props. Each person takes turns reading a piece of the story and placing the nativity pieces in place. Then sing happy birthday to Jesus and each person takes turns reading their thank you notes to Jesus out loud. Close by singing “silent night” together & prayer.

Advent Day 8: Giving to Others

Read: Matthew 25:31-46

How aware are you of the needs of those around you? On any given day it could be the more obvious needs that we usually try to ignore like the guy on the street with a sign asking for food or money. Or the woman pushing a shopping cart with all her possessions in it. But there are also the more subtle ones that are easy for us to miss not because we are trying to ignore them, but rather because we are too busy doing our own thing to actually notice. The woman who is struggling with two kids and grocery bags trying to get to her car. The person sitting in the corner of a coffee shop quietly sobbing over news he just got on his cell phone. The person who has come by your office several times bothering you with simple questions that don’t make sense who really wants to talk about some issues in his life but doesn’t know how to break the ice to start the conversation.

There are people all around us who need our care. As Jesus said in Matthew there are people who are thirsty and need a cup of water, hungry and need food, or cold and need clothing. He tells us that when we take care of these needs that people have and give to others it is as if we are doing it to him. How do we get to the place where we see others as Jesus does? Or even see Jesus in others so we pay attention and respond to them as we would to him? There is such a tendency to be so busy doing good things that we don’t even see the most important things in this world. I want to have the eyes of Christ this Christmas and beyond to see the needs around me and respond to them as he would if he were me. If the God of the universe could give our world the gift of his presence as a baby and ultimately his death as a man, the least I can do as an act of gratitude and worship to him is to serve those he came to die for.

Lord, help me to see others with your eyes. Make me aware of the needs around me and give me the means to respond to those needs. Amen.

Uploading & Sharing Photos in Google+

In this longer screencast, I cover the photo sharing aspects of Google+. This screencasts covers the size limits of photos uploaded, the process of uploading and managing photos, how to share and edit photos online, and how Google+ interfaces with Picasa Web Albums. I really like the photo features of Google+ and many photographers have been moving from Flickr to using Google+. The free uploads and unlimited storage of high resolution photos and the great sharing features and active photo community make it a great place for photo sharing. Take a look at the screencast and let me know what you think.


National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO)

Well I haven’t done much writing on my blog in the month of November. I put a few screencasts up but just couldn’t seem to get any writing done. The main reason was because of my participation for the second year in National Novel Writing Month. I love to write and I know that the more I write the better I will get at it. The usual problem with writing anything of length is the motivation and consistency to do so. I have found that NANOWRIMO really helps to motivate me to focus on a long writing project consistently for one month. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a month. Now I know that sounds like a lot of words in a short period of time and it is. But knowing that others around the world are doing the same thing and being able to track your progress and theirs really makes it fun to try to get after a goal that big.

For the second time in two tries I have reached the goal and as a result have gotten a good start on a couple of books I wanted to write. Each region has groups that set up write in’s at local coffee shops or libraries. There was a Facebook page for South Orange County where people posted inspiration and their writing totals. It really was and is a neat community of writers all going after the same personal goal and inspiring each other to do the same. South Orange County wrote 15,256,586 words in 30 days with all of Orange County writing 26,709,767 words! Some pretty impressive stuff there.

t was great to be a part of it and to get 50,000 words towards a writing project I am doing jump started in a month. Thanks to everyone involved for the inspiration and sharing your stories. I look forward to NANOWRIMO 2012!

Advent Day 5: The Light of the World

Read: Matthew 4:12-17, Isaiah 9:1-3, Matthew 5:14-16

In my advent reflection this morning I read about Jesus being the light of the world who came into a world of darkness to show us the way. It is interesting to think about the fact that the bible uses light as a symbol of who Christ is and was when he came to this earth. Light illuminates the things around it and makes it easier to move about and function in a dark space. Light keeps us from hurting ourselves or from grabbing the wrong thing when we can only base our decision on what we feel. Light allows us to see things for what they really are instead of guessing at what we think something is and hoping we are right.

Light is a perfect example of who Jesus is. He came to bring us the truth and embodied that truth in his life here on the earth. He lived the life that God always intended for us to live, not because God loves rules or wants to spoil our fun. As the author and designer of life, he knows how he created us and what he intended for us that we would experience joy in living. Because we thought we knew best and wanted to do our own thing we went in the direction of darkness and are merely settling for a cheap substitute for joy so we are constantly trying to manufacture it instead of experiencing it through living the way God intended. He sent Jesus to show us the way to live and to understand how thinks were designed to work in this world. Through the life of Christ and his lighting the way for us we are able to see things for what they really are, move around in this world with intention and purpose and no longer have only our feelings on which we base decisions. Living the way God intended, in the light, is the source of purpose and joy because we are living as our creator intended.

I pray that this Christmas I would continue to do everything I can to live in the light instead of hiding in the darkness. The more I am who I am in every situation in life and don’t try to play a role or look good for others, the more I am relaxed and can live in the moment and enjoy the life I have been given. The more I live for other’s perceptions the more I stumble around and am captive to those perceptions. I want my life to shine as a light as Jesus’ life was a light to this world.

Father, thank you for sending Jesus to this earth to show me how to live. Help me to walk in the light that you have shown me and live my life in the fullness you desire for me. Amen.

Setting Up Your Profile Page on Google+

This is the second screencast in the series I’m doing on Google+. In this screencast I cover how to set up your profile page and what all the security features look like. If you have any questions or comments feel free to respond below. Also if there are other screencasts you would like me to do leave a comment and I’ll see if I can make it happen.

You can also follow all my screencasts at my Youtube Channel. Enjoy!


An Overview of Google+

Here is a screencast walkthrough of Google+, Google’s new social media site. Google+ is a lot like Facebook but with some added features. You also get the integration of many of the other Google services into Google+ and it has become a pretty big hangout for photographers especially with unlimited uploads at high resolution (2048x2048 pixels). I will be adding more screencasts on each feature of Google+ but this should get you started if you always wondered what it was and wanted a tour without having to commit. Let me know what you think and any other screencasts you would like me to do in the comments below.

You can also follow all my screencasts at my Youtube Channel. Enjoy!


SuperDuper!: Backing Up Multiple Drives to One

I recently had my dad ask how to update two drives to one. He has two internal drives in his MacPro that he he wants to back up to his Drobo without using Drobo Copy which has been giving him errors lately. He doesn’t want to go through the process of partitioning his Drobo which I have tried before on a Drobo and is not really the way I like to use my Drobo either especially since my space needs could change at anytime and having to repartition a Drobo takes a lot of time and takes away the benefit of just adding storage. I prefer to use it as one big drive myself.

To help him see how to back up two drives to one, I put together a podcast to walk him through the process. The basic instructions on how to do this can be found in the manual for SuperDuper! found HERE. Enjoy!


Thoughts on Helping Our Kids Grow Spiritually-Part 2

Credit: Free images from
Developing the character of Christ and looking for ways to develop spiritual habits that connect our boys to Christ are challenging things to do with so many competing things in our boys lives. They are involved in church as well as school but we need to be the disciplers of our kids. To make this happen in our boys lives we have two things we do in this area.

First we want to have a time where our family engages in discussing what God is doing in our lives so they see that our faith is not merely a meeting we attend a couple of times a week but something we live out and integrate into our lives. So we make sure we eat lunch together after church on Sunday and we review what they learned in the children’s program that day and we share what we learned in big church. We are fortunate that our church puts the videos they use with our kids online along with a study guide for families to use to discuss the things they learned ( I use my iPhone to view the video and the discussion guide and we have a great time sharing and looking for ways to apply the things we have learned.

Second we want the boys to see the power of scripture in their lives and to begin to develop the habit of spending a regular time with God in his word. So each boy has an iPod with the bible reading app on it. They have a daily reading plan and we have them read or listen through that plan. The great thing about the YouVersion Bible App ( is that they can track along with it and it will read it to you. So they boys have an instant plan and can choose how they want to engage the text. I also created an internal blog on my Mac using Lion Server (you can use any kind of word program) where they journal what they have learned at least a couple times a week. Those journals are then available for everyone to see so we also learn from one another.

These two things have helped us to develop habits in our kids lives and to have spiritual conversations to help them to grow.

One of the things every kid needs to know is that they are unique and good at something. They also need to understand that the things that God has given them are not for the purpose of using them for themselves but to use for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” So our gifts are not for ourselves but for others. One of the things our boys need in their lives are the following:

They need to know they are loved unconditionally
They need to know we are proud of them.
They need to know they are good at something.

What we on regular basis is express our love verbally and let them know how proud we are of them, not just for their achievements, but because of who they are. If our boys are going to ever minister to others they need to be filled up with love and sense of who they are in Christ and we can model that through our love and expression of how special they are to us. We also point out the gifts that God has put in their hearts and has given them and help them to see ways they can develop and use those things to serve others.

Helping our boys have a global worldview and a heart for people and the gospel is something that is important to us. In our boys Kids Small Group experience they were able to share their testimonies with a younger group of kids and really got to process what it meant for them that Christ was their savior. Part of helping them to be open to sharing this with their friends is to help them to remember the things God is doing and has done in their lives and to also help them develop a biblical worldview so they know how to respond to the challenges they will face on a daily basis. To help with this we use the things they may view on television through commercials or their cartoons to talk about whether those things are presenting a biblical perspective or not. One thing I learned from our Pastor was to have the boys be able to point out which of the aspects of lust (lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, pride of life) does each commercial appeal to. It actually makes commercial bearable and a teachable moment at the same time! In addition to having these world view discussions, we try to remember all of the times we have seen God show up in our lives. Remembering those things is a theme expressed throughout the scriptures and is something that parents are commanded to do with their kids in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” One of the things we are going to start doing is recording the ways we have seen God show up in our lives and write them on stones that we will put in a pot that we will pull out and review often. Helping our boys to reflect and remember is a crucial part to helping them have a biblical worldview.

As you can see nothing here is rocket science. These are just some basic things we are trying to do with our kids to help them always remember God’s presence in their lives and to help to grow to have a love for God that is greater than their love for anything else. We are not perfect at this and have times where we are not as consistent as we want to be. But having a plan has helped us to stay focused on what is important! What are some ways you help your kids grow spiritually?

Making the Move to iCloud

Apple recently revamped their MobileMe service and moved it to iCloud which is a way to keep all of your information in sync between your devices and also available in the cloud. This is a major update and involves a few steps to get everything moved over so I thought I would do a screencast to record my process of moving my MobileMe account over to iCloud for those who are visual and want to see what will happen step by step before they take the leap. In the video I reference a few sites that Apple has put up to help walk people through the process so I am putting the links below for those who just want the facts and don’t need to see the walk through. This is my first podcast so there are probably some things in the production that are not quite right such as the number of times I say “um”.

How to Set Up iCloud:

MobileMe Move Site


Autism and Social Awareness

There is an interesting article on Ars Technica about a study done with people who have autism and their response to social pressure when it comes to charitable giving. You can see the article HERE. The conclusion of the article says:

So, it is clear that people with autism don’t increase their charitable donations when they are being watched. Why not? There are two potential explanations: first, they aren’t able to make the cognitive leap to understand how others form impressions of them, or second, that having a good reputation simply isn’t rewarding to them.

Although researchers aren’t yet sure why this phenomenon occurs, this is good evidence that disorders on the autism spectrum are characterized by a problem with theory-of-mind and social representations. We have a long way to go in discovering the neurological underpinnings and behavioral ramifications of autism, but it’s an important step in understanding the how the disorder works.

Having two boys on the spectrum, both diagnosed with Aspergers which is a high functioning form of Autism I could see where this might be true to a point. My boys are not really concerned with their reputation when it comes to things that don’t really directly effect them like giving money, etc. Where they do have awareness, however, is to social ridicule. They are concerned what others think if they think they might be embarrassed by it. For instance, they know when people make fun of them or when acting out in certain ways might lead to being made fun of because they have experienced it in the past. My son will only melt down at home or in a place where he thinks no one is watching (unless he is so angry he doesn’t care, which is another issue). They also will react after the fact to try to keep from being made fun of again or be in that uncomfortable situation. Where they struggle is with understanding something is off socially in the moment. They miss the nuances that so many of us naturally pick up and learn how to navigate. So in this particular article there is the nuance of knowing that how much they give would even have an effect on what people think about them that would be missed. Bring the idea up to them that how much they give might effect what that person thinks of them and just might increase what they gave in that moment because they do want to do what is expected of them most times.

Interesting stuff and it just shows that there are a lot of factors at play here. One thing I have learned from interacting with other parents with kids on the spectrum is how unique each child is. They may have the same diagnosis but how that diagnosis manifests itself can be different depending on the child. I’m glad research is being done and hopefully will lead to greater understanding.

Thoughts on Helping Our Kids Grow Spiritually-Part 1

Credit: Free images from
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to raise spiritually healthy kids. I have three boys at home, two of which have Aspergers (a high functioning form of Autism). Cheryl and I are challenged on a regular basis to figure out ways to keep them engaged spiritually and looking for ways to help them process things from a biblical perspective. I find that many approaches to raising biblically healthy kids usually are either too complex to make them practical or involve making sure your kids attend the church regularly. Now all of these approaches are valid and have some good points to them, but in the day to day of a busy home with kids who are being asked to do more and more when it comes to school work, how do we practically develop the habits necessary to help them integrate their faith into their lives?

At the church I attend we have the five purposes as a paradigm for things to aim at as it relates to spiritual growth. Those five things are worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and mission and they come from the Great Commandment (Matthew 22) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28). These five things serve as the basis for what our children’s small groups process uses to train our kids. As Cheryl and I thought through this process we decided to look for ways we could make these five things visible in our own home and reinforce what they are already learning in their small group. Here are some things we have been doing on a regular basis:

We want to help our kids connect their lives to God and learn that worship is about bringing the moment by moment things of their lives to Him. As Romans 12:2 says,“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Beyond talking to them about life and processing the things that are happening from a biblical worldview, we started praying a blessing over them every night as a part of our bedtime ritual. I will pray with each boy separately and pray Numbers 6:25-27 “ May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. I also pray Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” I will then pray for the events of the next day and for their character. We started this about 4 years ago and today the kids are always making sure that I don’t forget to this. It has created a teachable moment and a way to worship God together on a daily basis.

Helping our boys learn to do relationships is quite a challenge especially when we have two boys who don’t understand all of the nuances of relating to people because of their Aspergers. Yet we want to make sure they know how to handle conflict and how to resolve the issues that can creep up in relationships. Beyond processing what happens in relationships on a regular basis we have set up two things we want them to catch: Confession and Forgiveness. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The ability to see a wrong that they have committed and confessing that to the person they have wronged is a huge piece of being able to have deep fellowship with others. Most conflict in relationships is due to the fact that people don’t know how and refuse to admit their part and apologize for it. Confession deals with the guilt we carry around in life and frees us from being ruled by it. Forgiveness is all about releasing the resentment we might have towards someone else. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” We are to forgive as God through Christ has forgiven us. So we teach the boys to handle confession and forgiveness like this:

Confession: “I’m sorry I did ____________. Will you Forgive me?”
Forgiveness: “I forgive you for doing that. We are ok”

In doing this we are hoping that they catch the fact that they need to quickly release the guilt and resentment they could have in life and that relationships with others are worth healing and making right.

In Part 2, we will discuss the other three purpose areas and how we are trying to help our boys to see those things and live them out in their own lives. These are just starting points but we have seen some cool things start to happen in their lives as a result. What are some things you have done in the areas of worship and fellowship to help your kids grow?

The Myth of Private Sin

Today I read Ezra 7-10. We would like to think that the things we do wrong in life are only between us and God and are just a private affair. After all, how I live my life should be no one’s business. Besides, if I do anything wrong I am only harming myself. If I do something directly against someone else, like stealing or murder, sure I should be busted for that. But the other subtle things in life that I do are just personal sins that I have to deal with. So we go about life thinking there are only consequences for us and down play any impact those things might have on others.

In Ezra’s day, many in the remnant of Jews who returned to rebuild the temple had gone against God’s commands to not intermarry with the people of the land. I am sure they thought that their disobedience was a small thing. What harm could it be to the overall scheme of things? Besides, it was their decision and didn’t involve anyone else from the community. The reality was, however, that everyone in that community was effected by the sins of the people who chose to disobey God in this area. Part of the command had to do with whether or not the community would be blessed by God or not and whether his hand would be on them. Their personal sin had implications for an entire community.

There are very few sins in this life that are not social or at least have secondary effects on those around us. The decision to take up an addiction, something that seems private, has devastating effects on relationships and the people who know the addict. The decision to love money more than God causes a person to use people and love money instead of loving people and using money. The list could go on and on. When we buy the lie that says it is only hurting ourselves, we get defensive when it is even hinted that our personal life is having a negative impact on the lives of others. But the reality is, there are few sins that don’t had social implications.

The community in Ezra’s day handled their sin in a public way by mourning over what they had done wrong and seeking to put things right according to the laws of their day. Even in the way they needed to put things right had negative consequences for the wives and children they had taken against the commands of the Lord as they were sent away from the community. It is important for us today to realize how much our actions effect others and change our perspective on how private our private lives really are. We need to confess the things we have done wrong to God and seek to make amends and live in the way God set up in the first place. Only then will we understand and live in a way that our lifestyle is one in which we truly love our neighbors as ourselves.

Lord, help me to live my life according to the way you have set before me to live. May the things I say and do not bring harm to those around me. Make me a man of integrity. Amen.

Criticism & Relationships

I see a lot of people in marriage who try to use criticism as a way to connect with their spouse or to help make their spouse a “better person.” I really believe that most people think that their approach to criticism is a good one and only have the best of intentions for their spouse. In fact they feel their form of criticism is constructive or not really criticism at all. The problem with criticism is no one really wants it. Think about it for a moment. How many people would raise their hands and say they could use more criticism in their lives because they really want to grow and be the best they could be? Would you really want to receive the criticism you give to your spouse?

Criticism in a marriage almost always leads to defensiveness and some kind of resentment. Criticism says, “You have something wrong with you and I am going to point it out to make sure you change it because I don’t struggle with those kinds of things in my life.” It almost always comes across as a superiority thing and usually feels condescending at best. It usually communicates that you do not really accept your spouse completely and won’t accept them until they get certain areas of their lives “fixed.”

So if criticism is not constructive, how do I help my spouse change the things that are off? First you need to check your motives. Are you really concerned with helping your spouse grow? Or are you trying to make your own life easier by getting your spouse to go along with your program? If you are doing it for selfish reasons then it will almost always come out wrong. Next, Have you built into the life of your spouse? If you have invested no time into your spouses life and haven’t recognized the positives in your spouses life and pointed them out, it will be difficult to hear your words of correction. Think about it this way, do you honor your spouse as much as you try to change her/him? How many encouraging comments do you give to the number of critical ones? Would your spouse even be able to hear your words of help in areas of her/his life that she/he may need to work on? Or, are you so negative that she/he can’t even hear your words anymore? Have you banked enough encouragement in her/his life that she/he respects and responds when you point out a fault?

If you want to have influence into your spouses life, you need to be a person your spouse trusts and knows has her/his best interests at heart. It is when you have that kind of relationship that it is easy to listen to things you may need to work on in your life. Of course in that kind of response it is not criticism at all but truly helping one another to grow.

Nineteen Year Anniversary

Wedding 01
Nineteen years ago today, I stood before God, my family and friends, and pledged my love, life, and faithfulness to my beautiful bride and the love of my life. It was a beautiful day in September and I will never forget seeing her for the first time in her wedding gown as the doors opened and she began walking towards me. I remember thinking how beautiful she was and feeling like the luckiest guy in the world in that moment. I smiled so much that day that the muscles in my face hurt (and it wasn’t just from smiling from all the pictures that are usually taken at a wedding).

Our story was not necessarily unique as stories go but has enough uniqueness to make it uniquely ours. Cheryl and I grew up in the same church together. We both have pictures of events we were in at the same time, but as is the way of things as young kids, I had no use for girls at that time so I never really noticed her. It wasn’t until high school that I really “noticed” her. She was dating someone else at the time so I never really talked to her too much and I probably never would have as I was pretty shy in those days. It took a divine intervention to bring us together.

Cheryl’s school had a Sadie Hawkins Dance, which is basically an excuse for the girls to ask the guy who would never ask her to a dance because he was too shy or usually too dense to know she liked him. Cheryl and a bunch of girls from our youth group decided to put the names of some guys from the youth group into a hat and they had to ask the person whose name they drew to the dance. Now it is pretty obvious to me now that they put the names of people in the hat who they were sure didn’t have a date which is how my name got into the hat. I think I weighed all of 60 pounds and if I stood sideways you wouldn’t notice me except that my nose stuck out. So, in God’s divine providence, Cheryl drew my name out of the hat and she asked me to this dance.

Now I had no idea of the name drawing so I assumed she liked me. After all, why would a girl ask a guy to a dance if she didn’t like him? So I thought it would be a good idea if we went out before the dance and she said sure. So in order to impress her, I decided to take her to Sizzler. Sizzler for those of you who don’t know, is basically Denny’s with a salad bar. It actually sounds better than it really is. So we went to this place and I wanted to impress her so I ordered the biggest drinks they had and they give you a tray to take the drinks to your table while you wait for the food. As we got to the table I tilted the tray and the drinks began to slide off the tray. It all happened in slow motion because that is how I remember it. Coke went everywhere but all of the ice from the cups went into the purse of a women whose back was to us. Being the godly guy that I was I turned to Cheryl and said, “Quick let’s go before anyone notices.” We went and sat in the back corner. I was so embarrassed. As we were sitting there we saw the woman go to get her purse and see all the ice in it. She then looked up at her son and smacked him on the back of the head assuming he put the ice there. So I caused a kid to get busted for what I did on my first date with my wife!

So that is how it all started. We dated for six years until I could graduate from high school and college. I remember the day I proposed to her. I had already taken her dad out for breakfast and asked for her hand in marriage. I was ready to get engaged and wanted to make it special. I told Cheryl we were going to Santa Cruz to hang at the beach and then go to dinner afterward. There was a special spot at a Christian Conference Center where Cheryl and I spent a lot of time talking together along a creek. I knew I wanted to propose to her there so I had my friend Jimmy take the wedding ring and a huge shell and set it on the beach of that creek with the ring in the shell and wait for us to come so I could propose. The plan was perfect and I figured she would have no idea.

One thing about my wife is the fact that she has a way of smelling out any surprise. Her parents tried to throw a surprise party for her and all I had to do was take her out for dinner and bring her home to a house full of all her friends. I did well all the way up to where we were going into the door and she wanted to make me go first. I asked why and she said so everyone on the other side of the door would say surprise to me not her. She really can sniff this stuff out. Well on the day we were going to the beach she was getting all dressed up with full make up and everything. I was pretty dense at that time and thought, “Oh good. She will look great when I propose,” not thinking that she was thinking the same thing.

When we got to the Conference Center, where we always would stop when we went to Santa Cruz, she was looking around everywhere on the way to our spot. Then she asked me point blank, “Where is Jimmy?” She even knew my friend was there! Well we get to beach and the shell is there but she doesn’t see it because she was too busy looking for my friend. I start to worry that she will either find him or he would pass out somewhere in the weeds so I point out the shell to her. She sees it and says, “Cool my mom loves these things.” She picked it up and the ring fell out and by the look on her face I knew I had her. I got down on my knee and proposed. Now most women would say yes and the violins would start playing with hugs and kisses. Instead of yes, she says, “Did you ask my dad?” Now I have an audience in the bushes and this didn’t quite go how I thought it would. I told her I did and thankfully we then had the violin moment followed by a voice from the bushes saying, “Can I come out now?”

We have story after story like that. I am so blessed to be married to my best friend and such a beautiful woman as Cheryl. She knows me better than anyone else and knows what I need to hear at the times when I am the most high and the most low. She has a way of looking at me that tells me when she is proud of me and her eyes are the most beautiful I have ever seen. To say I am lucky is an understatement. I can’t imagine my life now nineteen years into my marriage apart from her. It doesn’t mean we haven’t had our lows in addition to our highs, but we have chosen to work through those points and it has led to a strength and comfort with one another that everyone really dreams about. This strength and comfort only comes through a track record and a history and history is only built over time. I am so excited today to be married to my high school sweetheart and look forward to another nineteen years and beyond of building this history we have that we call our marriage! I love you Cheryl, and happy anniversary!

What's Wrong with My Spouse?

I had an interesting conversation with a couple the other day about the dance that happens between men and women in married relationships. It is fascinating how we all seem to follow patterns without really understanding what is going on and as a result have conflict over thinking the other person is insensitive or not committed to the relationship when in reality, that person really not that much different from the typical man or woman out there.

In a typical relationship during the dating phase a man pursues a woman and seems to be super connected. When they are together he is intense in his connection and seems to be the most romantic and attentive man in the whole world. He makes the woman the center of the evening and everything he does seems to revolve around her. At the same time she responds to him in a way that says he is the best man in the whole world. She looks at him in such an admiring way the he is captivated by that and feels like he can take on the whole world with her by his side. Most words out of her mouth are words of encouragement and praise.

Then this couple gets married and lives with one another for a while. Over time she starts to feel like maybe his whole dating thing was just a way to trick her into marrying him. He doesn’t seem as attentive as he used to be and she is not getting as much focused attention as she seemed to get when they were dating. He seems preoccupied most of the time and doesn’t seem to want to spend much focused time with her unless it is scheduled or on a date night, but even then it doesn’t feel the same. He starts to feel like he went from being a man who could do nothing wrong to a guy who can do nothing right. Her words of praise have seemed to be replaced with words of criticism. Rather than a look of admiration he feels like she looks at him like an artist who doesn’t like what he has painted and can’t quite figure out what is wrong. They both feel like the other person has changed and have no idea how to bring the other person “back.”

Tho understand what is going on we need an understanding of the differences between our dating lives and married lives and how men and women perceive and live differently. Men tend to have the ability to focus on one thing at a time with intensity. This tendency for men to focus means that they can usually only handle one thing at a time. That is why a guy can be working on a project and the whole house could be burning down around him. Women tend to see everything as interconnected. One thing springs into another and so on. That means everything means something and women have the ability to be aware of everything around them at the same time and tend to see links between things and constantly be processing things in their mind. Just talking about this you can already see where conflict could come into a relationship.

Now go back to the dating phase of the couples relationship. For a guy that intense focus shows up in the times when they date. For that date his only focus is her. So she is the recipient of all of his attention and it feels great. But there is a point where that date ends and the man goes back home to his own place and she goes to hers. They both have to work usually so their contact is limited to some extent. What she doesn’t know is every man sees his home as a place of solitude, where he can let down and kind of disconnect from the world where he has been giving focused attention all day. So guys kind of check out many times when they get home.

What he doesn’t know is when she gets home she is still processing everything that happened and looking forward to the next time they are together.For the woman her admiration of him is based on her thoughts about him and his ability to make her feel secure through his attentiveness. She figures his thoughtfulness is interconnected with everything he does and he thinks about her every moment because, after all she is interconnected and that is how her world works.

Fast forward now to the marriage. He comes home from work expecting to unwind and disconnect from the world. She is waiting for him to come home to engage in his world and share all of the things that have been happening in her world. You can see the disconnect that happens. She views his lack of desire to connect on an ongoing basis as a sign that he has lost interest in her and he views her disappointment in him as a sign that she no longer thinks the world of him. Over time, he starts checking out more and she becomes more critical of him in an attempt to get him to connect. What they both need to understand is how each of them are built and then respond in kind. He may need a little more space to unwind and she may need a little more interaction spaced over time. I have found that when the wife gives the husband a little more space and the husband checks in with his wife on a regular basis combined with an intentional date night or some intense time together once a week helps the couple feel connected.

Most of the issues we face in relationships are based on viewing things only from our perspective and failing to see and understand the whole picture. When we do understand, however, and put into place a plan that takes into account our differences, our relationships will grow. Sure there are times when we are all insensitive, but every time we feel our spouse is insensitive may not be insensitivity at all but simply the way they are as a man or a woman.

The Situations of Life

Today I read Jeremiah 30-31 and the next chapter in Soulful Spirituality. How we handle situations in life have dramatic impacts on our own spiritual development and the spiritual development of others. What we perceive to be movements of God or words of wisdom from him can sometimes be nothing more than our attempts to speak into being something we desperately want to happen or in some ways to rescue God from what we perceive as bad PR. We long so much for change to happen, especially in times where life feels like it is not working right, that cause ourselves to hear a voice that we quickly qualify as the voice of God.

In Jeremiah’s day the people were living in despair over their captivity to Babylon. They couldn’t understand how this could be anything close to God’s will and their souls which had been far away from God up to that point did not have the capacity to view the situation from his perspective because they had little perspective on their own lives and how they had failed to live up to what God had commanded. So various “prophets” started speaking for God on things they perceived would happen which all related to quick and early relief from their present sufferings. As you would suspect this message was popular among the people and they chose to listen to these men instead of listening to the minority voice which was really the only voice from God (Jeremiah) who was speaking about long term suffering with a great long term outcome.

Somehow we don’t do well dealing with what we perceive is bad news in life. We tend to think that true spirituality and connection to God should equal spiritual ecstasy and for lack of a better term, good luck, when it comes to how we experience life. Most of us like to live in the world of cause and effect where we feel that certain things we do for God should have certain positive effects in our lives. The reality is, real life, authentic living, happens not only in the spiritual highs of life but in the spiritual lows as well. Our character and our sense of being fully alive in this world is the balance between these two things. In Benner’s book he talks about the spirit being the transcendent fire in our belly that drives us forward and gives us a spiritual high of sorts while the soul is the container that brings a sense of reality and grounding to life that allows us to grow in and through difficult times in life. Have spirit at the expense of soul and you have people consumed by their longings and desires that causes them to flame out or live reckless lives. Have soul at the expense of spirit and you have a life of despair, depression, and melancholy that causes them to live a lifeless and drab life. Our lives are meant to be lived in the balance between the two. Where we live life with passion but do so with a full understanding and embrace of the realities that face us everyday. This allows us to accept both good and bad from God and see both as opportunities to grow spiritually. When this happens cause and effect are not as important as how we live in the midst of life’s circumstances and how they grow our character. It allows us to be at home in our own skin and develop a depth that anchors us to God regardless of the circumstances of life. That kind of grounding allows us to deal with the reality of a message like Jeremiah delivered with a sense of hope and perspective that allows us to function within that reality.

Lord, help me to live an authentic life that balances my spirit and soul in such a way that I am rooted and anchored in you. Help me to take things as they come and strive to constantly hear your true voice in the midst of life’s circumstances. Amen.

Countering the Myths of Dating

In the previous post I talked about the myths singles have when it comes to dating and how those myths do more to damage their prospects for a lifelong relationship than they do to guarantee a happy result. When it comes down to it, everyone wants guarantees especially when it comes to something as intimate as a relationship. The reality is, there are no guarantees and nothing you do can somehow create a guarantee. We are human and as a result we all make mistakes and hurt one another. But there are ways we can enjoy the process and create an environment of openness and honesty that are essential for any good relationship to thrive. Let’s look at some counters to the myths we discussed previously.

First, the concept of having a list is not a bad one in and of itself. Where it usually goes wrong is in the execution of that list. Most lists I have seen have characteristics down to the hair color of the other person or having to like basket weaving like I do. What I have found is that these lists are really based on a level of selfishness. The more we live the less we are willing to compromise the things we enjoy doing. There is also a level of pain involved as well. I have been hurt so many times that I am going to narrow the list to make sure that doesn’t happen again. So rather than being flexible to learn new things or to have somethings that we enjoy but our spouse wouldn’t, we put it on a list and make it a non-negotiable. I would never have married my wife if I made my love of playing basketball a thing that my future wife would have to love and do with me. So based on something I had on my list I would have eliminated the woman who I can truly say is a perfect match for me and the love of my life. How many people have you discarded because of your list?

Instead of having a narrow list have a short list of non-negotiables. On that list I would have things like, must be a follower of Jesus Christ and committed to following Him, must be a trustworthy person of character, and I should be attracted to the person. That’s pretty much it. You could add some other things to it but I would keep it simple which would increase the potential people you could date and would probably lead to finding someone who would surprise you. Most great relationships are between people who are opposites. I know many people think this would only create a lot of conflict but I have seen the same level of conflict between people who are the same, they just argue over whose way of doing the same thing is the best. Open up your list and see what happens in your dating life. You might be surprised!

Second, the idea that you can somehow speed up the process to avoid wasting time with someone who doesn’t end up being your spouse is not only a myth but a near guarantee that you will not find someone. Think about it, if you turn every date into a job interview you are communicating a few things to the person you are dating. First, you are saying you are the judge and jury on whether or not this person is worthy to date you. It makes you critical right off the bat and most people don’t want to be graded on their performance. Plus who’s to say they are not evaluating you? How would you feel with someone interrogating you? Second, you are saying that you are desperate and if the person passes the quiz you might propose to them on the second date. Third, it communicates you are not into them as a person but as the potential of who they could be for you. Everyone wants to be loved and cherished for who they are not who they could become.

Instead of speeding up the process, relax. Allow the relationship to naturally develop and it will be clear over time if this relationship will lead to marriage or not. You cannot speed up the process to fit your timeline. Just like everyone else on the planet you have to go through this process of discovery and getting to know each other so you might as well relax instead of being stressed out over an imaginary timeline you have created for your life. If you really want to get married you will only get there by being yourself and enjoying getting to know another person and having them get to know you. Besides if you relax the odds are you will find the other person likes you more that way than if you are a stressed out interrogator!

Next, basing your decision on whether the other person is going through the proper protocol on how you think relationships should work is not a good way to go about a relationship. First you have to figure out how universally known your protocol is. Not everyone thinks the way you do and if they have some other protocol they are working on you could both miss each other miserably. Just because a guy does not make a move after your predetermined time does not mean he is not a good leader or will be wishy washy his whole life. Most likely he has been burned in the past and is afraid to take the risk of being rejected again. He is also probably missing the “signals” you think are so clear that you are giving him. Just because she doesn’t seem to respond to every joke, gift or idea you have with enthusiasm does not mean she is bored with you. It may just be that your expectations are too high for how she should respond. Rather than wait for perfect protocol, take the risk yourself and be honest. Talk about how you feel and where you see the relationship going. It is ok for the woman to ask the guy about where he is at in the next step of the relationship (within reason time-wise. See number two above). He might actually be relieved you asked. It is ok as a guy to ask what she thinks of something without looking weak. She would probably appreciate the fact you asked.

Finally, the mind reading and interpretation that goes on with the “tea leaf” crowd does nothing to help a relationship in fact it only creates more problems. It is exhausting trying to interpret every word, lack of word, action, or lack of action. Not only is it exhausting but if you interpret it wrong, which you will 90 percent of the time, you can end up having a negative attitude towards the other person that they feel without being able to figure out why you are mad other than you are just a jerk. If most people are mind readers than I would have to say they are all not very good at it based on the conflict I see that comes from imaginary insults and events. If you want a healthy relationship you have to talk about the things you are unclear about and begin to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. If he or she didn’t call it doesn’t mean they are not interested it may just mean they are busy or working at that time. If they are not enthusiastic every time they get a call from you it probably means they are normal not that they are no longer interested. Do yourself a favor and relax and stop reading into everything. Allow the natural flow of events to happen in a relationship and watch the results. If you are uncertain about something or think the person is trying to tell you something non verbally, ask. Yep I said it, ask. It won’t mean you are too needy unless you ask about everything. But if you are truly unsure occasionally asking instead of assuming will only lead to greater clarity and understanding which are critical for every healthy relationship to develop.

Dating is already a tricky thing. Making it more difficult with the myths out there can only lead to more disappointment. But if you choose to allow the process to naturally take place by being yourself and giving it time, you might just find a relationship you would never have considered in the past and if you think about it, that’s how most people who are married found one another. It was usually the last person they would have thought of. So relax and enjoy the process.

The Myths of Dating

Dating is one of those things that causes most people a lot of anxiety, especially in the single world. Relationships are already hard enough to establish and maintain with two independent people trying to figure out how to relate to one another in this identity called a “relationship.” Add to that the pressure to find the “one” who you will marry, have a family with and hopefully grow old with and you have a recipe for a difficult process. With all this pressure put on a few hours with another person who may or may not fit the profile of “marrying material” it is no wonder so many singles have been frustrated and lose a sense of hope when it comes to having all of their dreams come true. There are so many myths surrounding this dating process with advice coming from every corner, how do you navigate that advice? Here are some of my thoughts on where this advice goes wrong.

First you have the “list” people. You know how this works. You are told to make a list of all of the things you want in a person and then you go out and find a person to fit your list. It is kind of like shopping for a mate. After all, we shop for just about everything else in life, why not a future spouse? You are told to stick to your guns when it comes to your list and never compromise on that list. So singles go out and make a list that only God could fulfill and they wonder why they are not meeting new people or finding the right person to marry. Never mind that many of them could not live up to their own list or if the person on their list had his/her own list they wouldn’t be on it. With such a narrow list of attributes and things the person wants in a spouse, they miss so many opportunities around them because they would never consider anyone who doesn’t fit the list.

Then you have the “don’t waste your time” people. These are the people who say that you are only wasting time if you allow a relationship to develop over time only to find out that person wasn’t the one. So instead of wasting your time trying to figure out if this person is marrying material or not try to figure it out on the first date or second if you are not really efficient with your time. So you go out on a date and turn it into a job interview asking all kinds of questions, many of an extremely personal nature, to a person who you just met. Of course never mind the fact that you are projecting that this date is not for fun but an evaluation of the other person’s potential performance as an adequate suitor for marriage. What person doesn’t love having their performance evaluated? Everyone likes performance reviews at work right?

Next, you have what I like to call the “proper protocol” people. These people know how relationships are supposed to work and don’t cross any lines when it comes to those generally known rules. If someone doesn’t play by these universal rules than they must not be the right person to marry. You know what these rules are. The man is supposed to take the initiative when it comes to the relationship. He should know what he wants and he should do all the directing and asking in the relationship. If he doesn’t, then it shows he is not a good leader or is a terrible decision maker and therefore not a good candidate to lead a relationship. The woman is supposed to be good at following the lead and should look like a super model every time you see her. If not she may be too bossy or critical or only taking care of herself to get a guy and then will let herself go after they get married. Or you could have the reverse of these roles depending on each person’s perspective on how relationships should go.

Finally, you have what I call the “tea leaf” people. These people try to read the signs and determine whether a person is interested and what every move the person makes or doesn’t make really means for the relationship. Everything is analyzed from how soon the person calls or texts back to what certain conversations and topics really mean. He didn’t call back for two hours it must mean he is not interested in me. She didn’t laugh at my joke. It must mean she finds me boring. There is no end to the analysis and second guessing that goes on with this group. More time is spent on deciphering than is spent on really getting to know the other person and allowing the relationship to develop.

Each of these types of dating approaches usually leads to the same place, the end of a potential relationship. People are complex and yes you want to make sure you are making the right decisions when it comes to investing the direction of your life with someone else. But if you don’t allow that relationship time to develop and breathe without all the expectations and evaluations you are tempted to put on it, you will have a difficult time finding a relationship that could lead to marriage. In the next article I will discuss counters to each of the types of people above and some ways you can begin to overcome these mentalities to make yourself someone who others can relax with.

Where to Start if You Are in Conflict with Your Spouse

A question I get frequently is what do we do if our marriage in not in a good place? What types of things should we do to move in the direction of making our relationship healthier? If you find yourself in a place of conflict and you want to start resolving it yourself, here are a few things you can do to get back on track and start moving in the direction of health:

First, you need to look at yourself. The problem most of us have in relationships is we are experts on what the other person is doing wrong. We instantly become mini-psychologists and can tell you everything that is wrong with our spouses and what they need to do get on the path towards healing. So all of our focus is on the aspect of our marriages we can’t control! If you have ever seen your spouse as a fixer-upper and tried to change him/her you have probably found what a frustrating and exhausting effort this is. The reason is, no one likes to be a fixer-upper and everyone wants to be accepted for who they are not for what they might become. So the only thing you can change in your marriage directly is yourself. Start with looking at who you are in the marriage and where you are failing and make changes in your own responses and how you relate to your spouse and see what happens. Many times it only takes one person to make changes in their life to cause the other person to have to adjust and make changes too. Now you must remember not to change as a way to manipulate your spouse to change. That doesn’t work. Make changes yourself because you believe it is the right thing to do and expect nothing in return and leave the results up to God.

Second, overcome your fears and choose to move towards your spouse. This is usually the most difficult part because we get into a stalemate in our relationships where we are waiting for the other person to flinch first. We figure we have tried everything we can think of and the ball is now in the other person’s court. The problem is both of you are thinking the same thing and no one moves. I usually ask couples, “whats the worse things that can happen?” If your relationship is moving in the wrong the direction the worst thing that can happen is it continues to move that direction. But if you try something different you might get different results. Most men are afraid of being put down and losing another argument so they check out. Guys you need to overcome those fears and choose to engage your spouse in a loving way and see what happens. Women tend to fear being a door mat and walked all over if they try to engage. Over come that fear and try to engage your husband without trying to change him and see what happens. If we overcome our fears and make positive strides many times that starts to move the marriage in the right direction.

Finally, focus on what you are grateful for instead of what you want to change. What you choose to focus on will dictate what your attitude will be. If you always focus on the negative and what is wrong with your spouse and marriage you will only see the negative which will fuel your anger. If you choose to focus on what is right and the positive aspects of your relationship your attitude will change to one of gratitude and your responses will be more positive. Your attitude needs to be checked when it comes to your marriage. Many times the only thing that changes is not the other person but our attitudes.

Now I know that this seems simplistic and in many ways it is. Sometimes it is the small things that can make this biggest difference and focusing on these things can really help the state of your marriage. Don’t expect instant results or some kind of miracle. These things take time and having a long term view will help with your outlook. Making these adjustments in our attitudes and expectations can lead us in the direction of a healthy marriage.

Ooma Phone Service Review

Ooma Logo
For quite a while I struggled with paying my cable company for a phone line in the house. Sure I got a basic discount off of my “bundled” services, but I really couldn’t justify paying for a phone that we rarely used or when we did use it, we got charged by the minute for calls we made. When we did use it most of the calls were long distance to our family. So with the shift in the economy and my desire to rid myself of as many ongoing bills as possible I set out to find a solution to cutting the cord on my local phone bill.

In my search for the perfect solution I was chatting with a guy at my local Starbucks who said he had made the move to a VOIP phone company called Ooma. I decided to check it out and I am glad I did. Ooma is basically a voice over internet phone which means that it plugs into your existing internet connection and routes phone calls over the internet. So it is basically piggy backing off of your internet connection and therefore saves you from having to pay for phone calls (with the exception of international calls). Since many of us are paying for our broadband internet anyway this is a great way to leverage what you already have to get free phone service.

Getting Started
To get started with Ooma you need to buy an Ooma box. This box looks like any other phone machine and, in fact, includes a phone machine function. You plug the box into your router and then plug your existing phones into the Ooma box. Depending on the phones you have in your house you can use either wireless phones by plugging the main base station into the Ooma box and having that base station give the signal to the other wireless phones without having to plug into the wall. Or you can plug the Ooma into the wall and get smaller Ooma base stations, called Scouts or Telos, that you then plug into your phone sockets to allow for multiple phones in the house. I personally use a Panasonic wireless phone system with the main base station plugged into the Ooma with the other panasonic phones and chargers plugged in at various places in the house.

Ooma Premier
Once Ooma is plugged in, you walk through a set up wizard on your computer that helps you get your number set up, your voicemail customized and tests your connection. I found the process to be pretty easy with no hiccups at all. You get a free trial of their Premier service which adds other things like a second phone number, an instant second line so if one person is on one of your phones you can pick up another phone and have a dial tone to call out, Blacklists and phone number blocking, free 250 minutes on their mobile app to make calls over your data connection on your cell phone to save your cell minutes, and all kinds of other feature. To keep those features beyond the trial it costs $9.99 a month. You can read more about these features here:

Getting Messages
You have access to your voicemail messages either from the Ooma box, from your phone if it has that feature, through the Ooma website, and you can even have Ooma text you when you have a phone message at home or pay $9.99 a month for a service that will transcribe your message to text and text or email it to you. On the website you can view your phone messages visually instead of going through them one at a time in a row, save messages, and organize them into folders. You can also see who has called in and who you have called and have a running record of phone numbers. There is a contact list you can add and with Premier you can add numbers to the global Blacklist that is constantly updated by other Ooma users. The web interface is a nice way to have your home phone and messages easily accessible while on the road.

Voice Quality
Now my biggest concern about Ooma was the voice quality. I have used other VOIP services and found that the voice quality was poor making me sound like I was in a tin can or had a lot of popping noises in the background. With Ooma I have been amazed at how good the phone quality has been. I have had friends and family tell me it sounded really good and I have not had any of the problems I have experienced with other VOIP services. It is really amazing how good the service is.

It Really is Free(or Really Cheap)
Now I know many of you are wondering, Is it really free after you buy the box? What’s the catch? Well that depends on how you use the service and what box you choose to get. If you get the older Ooma Hub and Scout combination than your service is completely free anywhere in the United States (you have to pay for international calls but the prices are quite good). If you get the newer Ooma Telo units you have to pay your monthly local taxes which are usually around $3-$5. I have the Ooma Hub and Scout and feel like I am not missing much with not having the Telo unit which includes HD voice, bluetooth connectivity for using your cell phone or wireless headset, and the ability to integrate your google voice account. The choice is yours but compared to what I was paying before the monthly taxes make this a huge bargain. So with me having the Hub and Scout combo I got my Ooma unit on sale for $180 and because I had wireless phones I sold the scout unit to the guy in the coffee shop for $50 which means I paid $130 out the door for free phone service for life. So in 3 months I had basically paid for the unit and have been enjoying free home phone service for the past year. If you are in the market for a home phone and are tired of having to look over a phone bill or cut your long distance calls short for fear of what your bill will look like, I would definitely consider Ooma. You won’t be sorry.

My Experience with Turbo Tax

I just got done filing my taxes online using Intuit’s Turbo Tax Deluxe Edition. Until trying Turbo Tax last year I had always filed my taxes through an accountant. I decided to try Turbo Tax because I felt like my taxes were fairly simple and I noticed that all the same lines on my tax form were filled out every year for several years and I figured it couldn’t be that hard to file my taxes if my situation wasn’t changing enough year to year to cause any change in my filing. So I got a copy of Turbo Tax last year and compared the results of my previous year’s return with what Turbo Tax came up with and found the same identical lines filled out. So I have decided to use the program to file my taxes and I found it really pays off in the years after your first filing so I thought I would share my review here.

Start Up
When you first start up Turbo Tax it asks if you want to import data from your previous year’s taxes. Since I had my 2009 Turbo Tax file on my computer the program found it and began to import it. Once it had finished the import and recent software updates it took me to the Personal Information Screen and there was all my personal data just as I had entered it last year including social security numbers. I love the fact that I did not need to look anything up to have to fill out the same information again. It was all imported for me.


The Easy Wizard

From there Turbo Tax walks you through a series of questions that help you to determine what your income figures and deductions are. I love the fact that everything I had put in last year was already filled in for me. I just had to update my W2 forms and the actual numbers I received from all my financial institutions and figures from my wife’s home business. Everything was right there and the process was smooth.


Error Check
Once you have put all your information in, the program checks to make sure nothing is missing or out of place. If it finds something that you are missing it comes back asking you questions to help you finish putting in anything my may have missed. If you get stuck and are not sure if you should fill in that information or want to know where it is on the form you can simply click the form button on the top left of the window and you are taken to a screen that shows all the forms that will be used on the left and an actual editable form on the right. Any form that is missing information has a red exclamation point next to it. Once you update that information the red exclamation point goes away letting you know you are all set. This adds confidence as you know the system is checking all the bases.

State Filing
The state filing was also very well put together and up to date. Everything from my Federal Tax form was transferred to my state form so I had very little to input. I live in a state that requires you to pay taxes on purchases you made out of state or on the internet. Turbo Tax had that information available for input complete with each counties tax rate making it easy to input. The same error correction that is available on the Federal tax portion was available for the state portion as well.

Print & E-File
When you are all done with your tax preparation you are asked if you are ready to file your taxes. Before you file you have the opportunity to review and print the actual tax forms. I usually save the files as pdf’s so have them with all of my other forms electronically. You are then asked if you want to e-file or mail your forms in. I choose e-file due to speed of my return. The E-file information is pre-filled out from last year including my bank information and how I paid for the state e-file last year. So all I had to do was confirm the information and send it off. The beauty of Turbo Tax is the fact that they update you every step of the process. You get an email telling you your returns were filed. You also get emails telling you the government accepted your return and have in their possession. You can then check where your return is in the process all the way to the point where your check is mailed. Pretty cool stuff!

Overall I am pleased with my experience with Turbo Tax. The ability to do my taxes myself in a couple of hours for a fraction of the price I was paying an accountant makes it a great deal. The software does a good job covering all the bases including my tax status as a Minister which has it’s own set of complexities. I would highly recommend it if you have a pretty straight forward tax situation and are tired of paying an accountant.

Helping Your Parents Adjust to Your Marriage

One of the biggest challenges a newly married couple faces is what to do with the in-laws. In fact this is such a universally recognized issue that it is the brunt of jokes and sitcoms all pointing to the problems of meddling parents who get in the middle of the couples goal of marital bliss. It isn’t long before lines are drawn in the sand with loyalty to one’s spouse pitted against loyalty to one’s parents. With this type of either/or thinking it is no wonder so many marriages get off to a rocky start.

So how does a newly married couple deal with the in-law issue? One of the things it is important to understand is that your parents are going through an adjustment just as you are. They are adjusting to the fact that they are no longer the primary influence in your life and they struggle with how to be a parent to a married child. There really isn’t much out there on how to be a good in-law. So most parents just have to figure this out on their own and most usually struggle with letting go of their influence and control in the life of their child. So they continue to parent their child even though he/she is married now and tend to see the new spouse as a threat to their influence which causes power and control struggles for who will be the primary influence into the adult child/spouse. The only way to help make this transition a smooth one is to recognize the difficult task of adjustment going on for your parents and to take certain steps that allow you to continue to honor your parents while helping them to understand their new role.

First, you need to thank your parents for all they have done to raise you in the right way. Start by acknowledging your parents influence in your life and the things they have done well in preparing you for life. One of the things most missing for parents today is gratitude for all they have sacrificed for their children. Every parent needs to hear they have done a good job as they are constantly analyzing where they messed up or things they should have done before you got to adulthood. Reassuring them on the job they have done will put their hearts at ease and allow them to hear what you are going to say to them about their new role in your life.

Second, let them know that you are committed to making your marriage last the for the long haul and, next to God, your marriage is your primary focus. This will help your parents know that your marriage comes first in any decision you make which means that your spouse has to be a part of those decisions.

Third, tell them that you appreciate their advice but that you won’t talk about your spouse or the marriage with them because it wouldn’t be fair to your spouse. This sets the boundary early on that they will not have a direct influence into the marriage unless the two of you ask for their advice. Many parents really want to see their kids succeed so they will have a tendency to handle that desire by constantly speaking into your marriage through you. This creates problems because you feel like you have to at least act on the advice given (that’s what you did most of your life) and usually that advice is one sided as they are only getting what they see or hear from you. It is important to hold the line on this to help your parents understand where the limit is on their influence into your marriage.

Fourth, let them know that you know they want you to have a successful marriage and to do that you need to form new traditions together as a couple. One of the most divisive issues in a new marriage is what traditions to continue from each person’s past. There is a loss for your parents when you get married because the family traditions that you are so used to where everyone is present now suddenly have to be shared with another person’s family. The newly married couple can feel torn between the two families with questions of loyalty and equal time coming up in the conversation frequently. It is important to establish with both sets of in-laws that you will do what you can to be fair with everyone but in the end you have to make the best decision for the two of you. Setting this expectation early will help your parents begin the transition to the new reality without prolonging it. Too many couples cave in to the most demanding parents and only prolong the day when this type of discussion will have to happen anyway. By prolonging it, you create more problems because the demanding parents don’t understand why you are drawing those lines now that you have already been doing it after you got married.

In all of this remember that your parents are going through a transition at the same time you are. By taking steps to set boundaries with them you are actually helping them to make the transitions in the best way possible. You need to be prepared for them to push back and even blame your spouse for being the one who is making this decision and having too much control over you. It is important that you stand your ground and let them know it is a joint decision and that it is what is best for your marriage. You may even ask your parents if they want what’s best for your marriage and when they say of course you can let them know this is an important step in helping you start off right. In the end you will help your parents with the transition, strengthen the bond with your spouse, and set up a future of a great relationship with your in-laws.

How Does Marriage Fit into God's Story?

There’s a great article on the theology of marriage entitled “Marriage in God’s Story” over on the Resurgence Blog. How we view marriage plays an important role in how we relate and interact with our spouses. If we see marriage simply as something to make us happy and to get what we want, we will only end up hurting each other and using each other to get what we want. If however, we see marriage as a part of God’s plan to grow us to be more like Christ and as a reflection of his relationship with his people, our perspective and approach to marriage takes on greater significance. From the article:


Biblically, Moses first characterized marriage: “Therefore (because of marriage – my emphasis) a man shall leave his father and his mother, hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). In the New Testament, both Jesus (Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:6–7) and Paul (Ephesians 5:32) affirm Moses and agree with God’s definition of marriage:
  • It is exclusive (one man and his wife).
  • It is not defined by temporal family ties but by permanent covenantal promises (leave father and mother).
  • It is a lifetime commitment (hold fast).
  • Intimacy (oneness) ensues (they become one flesh).
However, marriage was never meant as an end to itself.

The article goes on to talk about the parallels between God’s relationship with his people, both Israel and the church and how that plays out in the context of our marriages. When you think about it our marriages says something about the that relationship and therefore the gospel to the world. What do people see of gospel when they look at your marriage?

Contract or Covenant?

When it comes to marriage, most couples believe they entered into a contract with their spouse when they got married. After all they had to go down to the courthouse and get a document that they had to sign along with a minister and two witnesses. Looks like a contract right? As a result of this contract view of marriage, many couples feel they have a right to evaluate how well their spouse is doing at keeping up his/her end of the contract. Just as a person would evaluate the work of a contractor that signed a contract for certain services, doesn’t it make sense that a spouse would have the right to evaluate the performance of the other?

The problem with a contract view of marriage is the focus on performance. Whenever performance comes into the picture in a relationship couples tend to put their focus into making sure they “get what they deserve” or have a “right” to certain things from their spouse. This leads to huge conflict because no one wants to be evaluated all the time and no one really praises anyone for doing what is expected on the contract. Think about it, if I treat my marriage the same way I treat a contract with a plumber the entire focus of our relationship is whether or not my spouse fulfilled the duties stated in the contract. I could be very cordial and even overly kind. But in the end if I feel the person did not do what I was “paying” him/her to do and I feel like the job was not done to my satisfaction, I will call “breach of contract” and look to get my money back. Can you see how that mentally can do damage to a marriage? If I am constantly evaluating my spouses performance instead of focusing on doing what I said I would do regardless of the other person, I am in effect treating my spouse like a plumber I hired for a job!

Instead of allowing our marriages to be shaped by a contract mentality, we need to model our marriages after the covenant God made with us. If God had made a contract with Abraham and evaluated his performance as a condition of the contract, the bible would have ended in the middle of Genesis! Thankfully God made a covenant with Abraham that he would fulfill what He said he would do regardless. In the same way, in God’s eyes, each of us who are married, made a covenant with one another before God to love and cherish, etc. until death us do part. That means our focus needs to be on how we are doing not on how our spouse is doing. Evaluating our spouses performance is not the way to a lasting marriage. Instead we need to realize we are in a covenant with our spouse and seek to live with him/her the way God lives with us.

When was the last time you evaluated your own performance? Could you live up to the standards you require of your spouse? What “rights” and demands do you need to give up?

Love Is Here Live Broadcast From Orlando Tomorrow

The Love Is Here website is broadcasting the Marriage and Family Ministry Track from the Orlando 2011 Conference on their site at 1pm EST tomorrow April 5th (that would be 10am for us in California). Come listen to the trends in Marriage and Family Ministry HERE.

Empathy: The Key to a Healthy Marriage

Imagine for a minute you are working with a married couple who is struggling with their relationship. You sit down and ask them what the issues are. Each person proceeds to describe what they think the problem is. Their description is filled with all the things that their spouse is doing wrong with the occasional sprinkle of admission of the “small” things they may have done to contribute to the problem. After both parties have described their concerns you turn to one spouse and ask, “What do you think your spouse is feeling right now?” Or, “Put yourself in your spouses shoes and tell me what you might be feeling.” Silence. Then a fumbling attempt at an answer that usually is far off the mark. Why do we struggle so much with putting ourselves in another person’s shoes?

The ability to put yourself in your spouses’ shoes is called empathy. Empathy allows you to consider how things may be effecting your spouse, to see his/her perspective, and to be able to actually understand where he/she is coming from. This empathy skill can save you hours of conflict and can actually develop in you a deeper understanding of the other person and even an appreciation for his/her point of view. It is empathy that allows couples to overcome many obstacles and arguments. The beauty of empathy is even if you are wrong in what you think your spouse is feeling, just the act of trying to understand communicates love and connection. If more couples would work at this skill and take risks in asking one another questions instead of always trying to “convince” their partners that they are right or their perspective is the only logical one to have, we would see a huge reduction in the amount and level of intensity of the conflict many couples face.

So how do you begin to have empathy in the context of marriage? First, you have to commit to yourself that winning an argument or having your spouse understand to your satisfaction your perspective are not the goals of your relationship. As soon as you make it about you and your perspective, you fail to have any bandwidth to actually have empathy for your spouse. Second, your goal is to have your spouse say “you got it” either verbally or non verbally. That means you need to take a risk and say to your spouse, “It seems like you are feeling x.” Or, if you have no clue, “what are you feeling right now and how can I help?” These types of questions will help you become an expert on your spouse the more you practice them. Finally, instead of then going on to forcing your spouse to get your perspective try to move towards your spouse in a way that shows you understand how he/she is feeling. It may be a hug or allowing your spouse to vent. Whatever it is, as long as your emotion and response are appropriate to what he/she is feeling you are showing your spouse you understand and care.

Empathy is one of the major keys to making relationships work and to draw a couple closer together. In what ways have you experienced empathy from your spouse? What are some ideas you can share with others on how to show empathy to your spouse. Share your ideas on the comments section below.

Leadership Insights from the Tech World

I saw this article over at the Nerd Business website that is a collection of 22 quotes from the leaders of high tech businesses. Reading through the quotes I found a few that really stood out to me and got me thinking about leadership and how that works in a church context. Below are a few of the quotes and my comments on what I thought about what each leader said. One of the overarching things that stood out to me was the fact that each of these leaders did not settle for the ordinary and each realized their role in leading their organization to success.

The Importance of Character
“As a leader, you’re not allowed to go out and have beers on Friday night and break character.”
Scott McNealy
Co-founder, Sun Microsystems

Character is one of the things a leader has that no one can take away from him/her. It is character that should be at the center of all our decisions and it is character that causes us to put the good of others ahead of the things we feel we have a right to do on our time off. It is this awareness of what we represent and who we represent and how we respond to it that shows our integrity and character. In ministry I am never off duty nor should I be. If I claim to be one person in public but then choose to act a different way when I am “off the clock,” which person am I really? Am I playing a part? Or does my life have a value and integrity that stands the test of consistency? The world doesn’t need people to who could break a character they are trying to be, we need people who have character that no one can break.

Growth and Change
“Your advantage at a startup is that you can demand employees who crush it and who are above-average, and compensate them with stock options. Average people should work at average (by which I mean big) companies. Big companies actually run better with average folks, because those people don’t rock the boat.”

Jason Calacanis
Founder, Weblogs

How we empower people will directly impact the results we get. It is true that most big companies and churches have a hard time moving on a dime and allowing employees to make the changes necessary for things to really happen. I have been at two large churches and a large company before that and I have have seen how difficult it is to move the titanic to get anything to change. Yet change can still happen in large organizations and you can still get above average people to work in those organizations as long as you allow those people the opportunity to make changes, take risks, take care of them, give them what they need and get out of their way. Sure not every idea is a good one but if you don’t provide the environment to find out, then you will try nothing new and by definition that means you are falling further behind and become less and less relevant.

Decision Making
“The company that consistently makes and implements decisions rapidly gains a tremendous, often decisive, competitive advantage.”
Steve Blank
Founder, Epiphany

One of the most frustrating things any employee can experience is the meeting after the meeting syndrome. This is where no real decisions are made in the meeting you were just in so there needs to be a meeting after the meeting to determine what might or might not happen. The delay in decision making is one of the primary killers of innovation in any organization. That indecision can usually be linked to fear of trying new things or too many structures in the organization to go through to get anything done. The sitting around and waiting that usually follows from such delays usually has the effect of losing good people who want to make a difference but can’t stand to deal with a lack of decision making. Meanwhile other places who make fast decisions are usually quick on the draw and get things done. In the church world this is, as my Pastor Rick Warren says, “riding waves” that come your way and being quick enough to catch the waves early instead of when they have already reached the beach. Riding those waves usually leads to moments that could never be recaptured and because they come with no warning require a great deal of faith.

Well these are a few of my thoughts on some of the quotes. You can read the rest in the article.


How Do I Date My Spouse?

Dating is something of a lost art form in our society today especially as it relates to married couples. It seem like all the creative ideas, the things you see in movies, were gone the moment you said “I do.” We guys used all our good ideas to actually get our wives to say yes and set the bar so high for ourselves that we could never measure up on our best day. Our wives used to think we were the best thing since sliced bread and let us know about it both verbally and non-verbally in how they responded to us. There is something about getting into the regular rhythms of life that cause us to abandon one of the most enjoyable and fun parts of our relationship with one another. While we may never go back to the days of husbands who think they are poets and wives who actually think the poetry is any good, we certainly can revive the excitement of dating one another and making that time as important as any other appointment or activity in our lives.

Research shows that time together is one of the leading indicators of whether a marriage is going to survive or not so making time for one another is not a luxury you add from excess time you happen to find, it is a necessity if you want to have a healthy relationship. So what do you do on a date? What do you do together once you make the time? 

Well I don’t pretend to have all the answers for every couple out there because we are all different. For some jumping out of an airplane together is fun. For other, more normal people, dinner is just fine. Whatever it is that you enjoy as a couple here are a few things to consider:

Pick a Regular Time and Block it Off Your Calendar
This whole dating thing cannot be something you get around to when you have time. Just like any other important appointment you would never miss for fear of getting fired or missing a huge opportunity, your date life needs to be a high priority. For Cheryl and I our date time is during the day on my day off while the kids are in school. It works best for us and is a time we look forward to. Figure out what works best for you and make it a recurring event.

Talk Together About What You Want to Do
Instead of putting the pressure on one person who has to determine all the details and might or might not get it right, talk together about what you want to do. If you like the idea of coming up with new things and really want to have one person take the lead, trade off each date time on who will plan the day. Whatever you do make sure you have time to talk and connect together. A date where you only face forward and never interact with one another is  not a date. That is happening to have someone near you while you do something else. Make your date a time to connect. For Cheryl and I, we go to Starbucks in the morning and spend time talking together and usually go to lunch together. We leave the time in between flexible so we can decide what we want to do week to week. 

Check in with One Another and Reconnect
In your date time together talk about life and use it as a time to catch up with one another. This is not a time to bring up all the things your spouse is doing to make your life miserable. That is not a date but an interrogation! This is a time to enjoy your time together and focus on the other person instead of what the other person can do for you. A few things you could ask each other would be:

-How has your week been?
-What are some of the challenges you are facing right now?
-What has God been saying to you lately in your time with Him?
-What things are you excited about? 
-What plans do we need to make together as a couple?

These types of questions allow you to explore one another and enjoy talking together. Remember not to use questions to manipulate your spouse or lecture them. This is a time to enjoy one another’s company.

Do Some Kind of Activity Together
Explore some things you like to do together. It may be as simple as going out to eat all the way to bike riding together. Whatever it is pick something you both enjoy and find a hobby you can do together.

Kindle your Physical Relationship
I know just putting this one out there some of you just let out a cheer and some of you want to stop reading. I put this out there not to say that every date has to end with sex. In fact that would be the wrong reason to have a date if the whole thing is just a set up for sex unless you both agree that is where you are going. I put this out there because the physical part of many couple’s relationships is something that can be left unattended. Over time sex becomes less and less an expression of the relationship and more and more a looming expectation or an experience laden with fears of disappointment. Like anything else, sex is something that we need to be intentional about if it is to be an enjoyable part of our relationship. With so many misunderstandings and hurt feelings that can surround our physical relationships, talking about it and making time for it are vital. Sometimes just scheduling when you will have sex can take the pressure of guessing when the right time would be away and can create a great opportunity to connect. In a future article I will talk about how to talk about sex but for now, consider how you will tend your physical relationship together whether that is during your date time or not.

Hopefully this gives you a place to start in thinking about your dating relationship. Guys remember your wives like to be pursued and what you did to get her to say yes to marrying you probably would still work today. Ladies remember your husbands liked it when you showed that you appreciated them and what they did had an impact on you and doing the same today for your husband will have a profound effect on how he pursues you. Now get out there and start dating each other and remember why you fell in love with each other in the first place!

Setting Up Pathfinder to Work with Hyperspaces

One of the programs I love to use on my mac is Pathfinder. Pathfinder is a Finder replacement that has a ton of features, many that Apple’s Finder should take note of and add. Things like:

Dual Pane File Browsing
Drop Stack
Tabs & Bookmarks
File List Sorting and Filtering
Command Line Tools
Quick Look Support
Application Launcher

There are other ways to customize the look and feel of Pathfinder as well. There is:

Dual Pane View
Pathfinder Dual Pane
Cover flow View
Pathfinder Coverflow
A Mix of Both Dual Pane and Coverflow
Pathfinder Split View
Pathfinder as Finder Replacement
Built into Pathfinder is the ability to replace most of Finder’s functions with Pathfinder. So when you open a folder it will bring up a Pathfinder window. Finder will still be running in the background because of the way it is built into the operating system but for everyday use Pathfinder will be the primary window that will be launched. To set this up, you go to the Pathfinder drop down menu and select “Show Pathfinder Desktop.”

Using Pathfinder with Hyperspaces
Now using both Pathfinder and Hyperspaces together causes some issues with which program gets priority on the desktop. To make these two programs work together do the following:

1. show the pathfinder desktop (path finder>Show Path Finder Desktop) 2. Bring the desktop forward (click on it and make sure it is the front most item). 3. Open the view option palette (view>Show view option or command J): you should see "show desktop options" at the top. 4. Click on the "set colors.." button, select Desktop in the drop down menu, and make sure that "show desktop background" is NOT checked. 5. Now you'll need to deactivate the Apple Finder's Desktop. In Path Finder, open (Pathfinder>Preferences) and switch to "General". Uncheck "hide Finder's Desktop" and relaunch the finder when asked (here I made sure "hide Finder's Desktop" was checked).

The Trap of Boredom and Complacency

Today I read Deuteronomy 5-7. This book is Moses’ final farewell message to the people of Israel before they enter the promised land. In this passage he reminds them of the ten commandments God gave them and tells them to obey everything God commanded them to do. He also gives instructions for how they should conduct themselves once they enter the promised land, everything from completely destroying all the people and their idols to remembering all the things the Lord has done for them and to serve him only. Knowing how the rest of the story goes it is hard to understand sometimes when reading a passage which goes by quickly yet covers many years to understand why the people would forget and do their own thing. How could they forget all that God had done for them especially when they could hear his voice and see his presence with them?

Even as I think about these things it reminds me how true this is for me and other followers of Christ today. We have this encounter with Christ that sets us on fire. We feel different and start devouring the scriptures and sharing our faith all over the place. Then we start to settle into what it means to be a follower of Christ as a marathon instead of a sprint. We mature a bit and develop habits that help us to stay focused on him and we begin to integrate everything in our lives around our faith. Then we have to work harder to stay connected. The world pulls at us and the reality of life creeps in and begins to distract us and steal our joy. Eventually we get to a place where it is a struggle to stay consistent in our walk with God. Just as the Israelites forgot God and when their own way, we do the same thing today and we have the Holy Spirit living in us.

I think the main enemies we face related to our walk are complacency and boredom. We become complacent with how our life is going and tend to live for excitement which generally ends up being something new or a new event in our lives. Outside of that, we take everything for granted and start coasting through life. As things become more and more predictable and we settle for less, we become bored and find our time with God to be dry and more of a chore than a life giving time with an eternal God. So we give up and look for other things to bring us the joy that can only come from a relationship with God. Rather than pursue the source of true joy we manufacture joy in the things of the world. I have seen this over and over again in my own life and the lives others. When they get going in their time with God and stay consistent in pursuing him, their attitude changes and their whole sense of purpose and connection causes them to feel more fulfilled. But over time they get complacent with it and start to cut corners and tell themselves they are too busy on this day to have their quiet time and one day becomes two, three, until eventually the quit all together. In the middle of their quitting they start to get bored with God and with their lives and either get angry and cranky or they seek joy in other things or events. It is a predictable cycle that if we choose to fight through it, we can find life and fulfillment on the other side.

Lord, help me not get complacent or bored with my life and my pursuit of you. Please help me to always stay focused on what is important and always be sensitive to your quiet voice in my life. Give me a sense of purpose and meaning and help me to use this life you have given me to it’s ultimate fullness. Amen.

Setting Up Multiple Desktops

I love using my Mac but I had the same problems most people do and that is having multiple windows open all the time and trying to find the one I want to view at the time. Sure I could use Expose but that just causes one window to come to the top and still doesn’t address the clutter. I could use spaces and spread my stuff all over the place but I found that without any organization I would just expand my clutter of windows to multiple spaces of clutter. To address how I handle the desktop and my open windows I set up a system using two tools that have made my life easier: Hyperspaces and Dock Spaces.


Hyperspaces is a tool created by Tony Arnold of The Cocoabots that works with Apple’s Spaces but enhances it and allow you to do a few things you can’t do with spaces alone. First, it allows my to put a desktop label on my spaces. This has allowed me to designate certain spaces for certain things. For example I have 9 spaces I use: GTD, Writing, Communications, Photos, Internet, Audio, Website Design, Utilities, Video. Each of these spaces has a different desktop wall paper so they are easy to tell apart by background in addition to the label created on the desktop. What I like about Hyperspaces is it also creates a menubar item that tells me what space I am on and clicking it shows me all 9 spaces with their backgrounds so I can click on the space I want to go to. It is a really slick way to divide up and designate space.

Dock Spaces

Dock Spaces Icon
Dock Spaces is a program that allows you to customize docks for individual spaces. This allows me to have a custom dock for each space I created with Hyperspaces. What is cool about this is I am able to put all the programs I would normally use in each of my spaces on the dock and have the dock change each time I move to a different space. So I have a dock for GTD, one for Writing, one for Photos, etc. That automatically come up when I enter that space.

How it Works

When I turn on my Macbook Pro to do some work I go to each space to bring up the programs I want to use. So I will open my mail app in the Communications space, a Safari window in the Internet space, iTunes in the Audio space, etc. Then when I want to see my email I just click on the mail icon in the dock and it whisks me away to the Communications space and brings up the corresponding dock with all of my communications apps in the dock. Or, when I decide I need to look something up on the internet, I click on the Safari icon in my dock and it takes me to the internet space. This allows me to have full use of all of my spaces without having to juggle too many windows in one space. It also works seamlessly with another favorite app of mine Pathfinder. I can have the Pathfinder desktop activated and still have these multiple spaces and docks working.


How to Set It Up

To set all of this up, get a copy of Hyperspaces and install it. Then:

  1. Click the preferences pane.
  2. Click on the Spaces Icon.
  3. Decide how many spaces you want and add the columns and rows by clicking the plus button on the right.
  4. Label your space in the space name field.
  5. Click on the Label icon and if you want the name of the space on your desktop, check the box next to the On the Desktop line.
  6. On the Desktop diagram at the bottom, click where on the desktop you want the label to appear.
  7. Next, click the image button then click the magnifying glass to upload any image you want for that desktop. I usually choose “Fill Screen” for my scaling option.
  8. Repeat this for each space you want to set up.

To set up a dock for each space, get a copy of DockSpaces and install it. Then:

1. Click the Docks button and click the plus button for a new dock.
  1. Label the dock to be the same name as the space you want it to go to (this will simplify knowing which dock goes with what space).
  2. Add or remove any applications you want on that dock for that space.
  3. Repeat for each space you have.
  4. Click the Setup button and indicate how many rows and columns you have for your spaces. This will cause Dock Spaces to associate your docks with each space.

Now try clicking through your spaces and watch how the docks change for each space. It really works great and has made using my Macbook Pro an awesome experience. Enjoy!


The Importance of Remembering Your Commitment

Reposted from the Married Life Blog (5/14/2010):
Many couples go through a marriage ceremony but quickly forget the significance and the vows they made that day. Our vows were not a simple contract set up between husband and wife that says if you do this I will do this. This kind of view on our wedding vows leads to many couples calling “breach of contract” when one spouse doesn’t do what the other thought he or she should have. Rather, our vows are a covenant that we make before God to do what WE promised. Reminding ourselves of this is an important part of keeping our marriages on track. This is something we talk a lot about in our
Married Life Essentials Event on Partnership.

Surfing the net, I came across an article in
People Magazine about a tradition that Seal and Heidi Klum have put in place to remind one another of their wedding vows. Every year they have a vow renewal ceremony with their family and friends:

"It's so special to us, something we love and something our children have gotten accustomed to," Klum says. "It's like, 'Hey, Mom and Dad love each other and they get married every year!' "

Added Seal:
"Each year, Heidi and I get remarried. It's a great party, but for about an hour, we go off on our own down to a private beach. We sit there with the kids and read vows to each other as the sun sets. It's a very special moment to us."

What a great way to recommit to one another and do so in front of the kids so they see what a good marriage is all about and what it takes to commit to one another. I don’t know anything else about their relationship or their lifestyle but in this area of their lives, they seem to have a great tradition. How about you? Have you ever considered renewing your vows to one another? Do you even remember you vows?

The Daily Sacrifice

Today I read Numbers 28-30. The Lord gave all kinds of times and seasons to sacrifice to him and to celebrate certain events in the lives of the Israelites. They had daily offerings they were supposed to do both in the morning and evening. Then they had certain festivals that they had to celebrate which went on for a week or more that related to seasons or certain things that happened to them in the past. The Lord was very specific on what they were to do and not do on those days. We all need to have regular times of remembering the Lord and his work in our lives. I can see the logic in having these daily times of offering and the special celebrations. It was a part of how they did life and it was one way that they could keep the Lord in front of them and always experience and remember his presence. Given to our own devices we quickly forget his presence in our lives and start to live as if he is not near. It is so easy to get caught up in the little details of our lives that we forget the God of the universe who created all things. It is kind of ironic and sad at the same time that we who were created can so easily forget our creator. But God knowing this was the case created these times of having the people remember him.

In my life one of those times is in the morning. I enjoy spending time reading the word and letting God speak to me and then write it down so I remember it. This time of meeting with him and writing like this are my regular sacrifice to him as the Israelites would have to do. The difference is that I do it because I want to and because of my desire to pursue him with all my heart. I am sure there were Israelites who did sacrifice to pursue God but whenever something is made mandatory there is always a part of us as humans that causes us to fight it. I am so thankful and grateful for the Spirit who lives within me and the time I can have learning and growing in Him.

Lord, thank you so much for the time you give to me every moment of my life and this special time daily to connect with you. I pray that I will always have the passion and desire to connect with you. Please help me to live out the things I learn from you and please give me wisdom beyond my natural abilities. Help me apply it well to my life. Amen.

Passing On Leadership

Today I read Numbers 26-27. As the children of Israel prepare to enter the promised land, God sets up ahead of time how much land each tribe will get based on their size. He then takes Moses to the top of the mountain to show him the land he is giving to the children of Israel (Moses can’t go in because of his sin). At the twilight of his life Moses asks God for a successor that could lead the people so God tells him to pass his authority on to Joshua who will lead them and hear from God through casting lots with the priest. The passing on of the torch of leadership and lessons learned in life is an important one. It happens in every form of ministry and industry in the world. Usually the gains of someone who was highly successful are not repeated by the successor because he is following in the leaders footsteps. It is interesting that Joshua does turn out to be an incredible leader conquering the land that God had given them yet he is not allowed to talk with God as Moses had before. When it comes to legacy and transfer of leadership, we need to do a better job of this in the church at large.

Usually in church life we wait until the last minute to pass on leadership to the next guy. Rarely does a pastor have a successor in the ranks of the church that he grooms and mentors into the role. Joshua was will Moses the whole time. He saw how he handled difficult situations. He learned from Moses’ mistakes as well as his successes. He was immersed in the culture of the nation and was able to carry forward the culture that was passed on to him. This helped to produce a smoother transition and continued the success that Moses had. If only we would do that more in the church, we would not have as many highly successful churches slowly erode to mediocrity once the founder leaves. I don’t know what it is that keeps this from happening. Is it the ego of the leader? Is it the ego of the successor? Are there no guys who are willing to sit under a great leader and learn? Are there no great leaders who want to take the time to groom younger leaders?

Lord, I pray for the church and the leaders that are to come in the future. Please help there to be leaders who take the time to mentor the younger generation. I pray also that there would be more young leaders who would take the time to learn from those who have come before them. Help me to do a good job of grooming my own boys to be good leaders and not shrink away from responsibility or quit when things get hard. Please prepare both me and them to receive what you want us to do. Amen.

The Problem of a Short Term View

Today I read Numbers 11-13. The fear of not thinking you are getting everything you should in life can lead to many problems. In the passages I read today, the people of Israel had many choices before them in how they perceived their lives were going. They could have been thankful that God was personally leading them and trusted him to take care of all their needs. That sense of gratitude could have carried them to early success in the long term view of their lives and their character and integrity would have been talked about forever. Instead they chose to focus on what they didn’t have and allow short term delays to turn into resentments which led them to question God and those who were leading them. They complained about the food thinking they were missing out and even willing to go back into slavery to get it! Looking back I can’t imagine getting to that place but it might not have been food for me that would have caused me to complain. Then Miriam complains against Moses because he married a Cushite woman. So here is a humble leader who hears directly from God and she chose to rip his reputation up behind his back over either her jealousy or false sense of justice. She may have been saying “poor me. He gets to do whatever he wants and I have to follow the rules.” That type of thinking always leads to cynicism. Finally, you have the spies sent into the land God promised who would rather let their fear cause them to spread that same fear to the people instead of just reporting the facts and trusting God for the outcome. So they basically manipulated the people to respond as they had in fear to keep them from having to face those fears.

It is easy to read these passages now and criticize how the people responded and their short sightedness. But the reality is, I end up doing things like this all the time in a day when I have the Holy Spirit living within me while the children of Israel did not. I find that I can feel like I am not getting enough breaks to get paid more like others do. I can feel like I am being blocked while other people get to do things I always wanted to. I can get cynical about how I feel leaders in my life are handling things and if I don’t guard my heart I could talk about those things behind their backs. It is very easy to take everyday things and twist them into some kind of injustice issue that would cause me to get all fired up.

Instead I work hard to choose to be grateful for what the Lord has provided and trust that he will continue to do so. I know that if I can keep a grateful heart and outlook I will protect myself from feeling I am missing out on something or not getting what I feel I deserve. It is a difficult struggle, especially in a social setting where everyone is trying to keep up with the Joneses, but I know that I need to have a long term view, trust the Lord, and let him determine the outcome.

Lord, please help me to stay focused on the things you have done for me and that long term view of what you will do in the future. Keep me from a mentality of what I don’t have or think I deserve and help me to focus on you and where you are leading me. Help me to be a good husband and father and to grow as a man of God. Amen.

Complete Obedience or Negotiated Compliance?

Today I read Numbers 8-10. Obedience is always in the details and how we obey completely not whether we obey in part. In Numbers God sets up the rules which the Israelites should follow in how they set up the tabernacle, consecrate the priests, handle the passover, and move from place to place. Each of these instructions had very specific things that could and couldn’t be done with consequences for each action that was not followed. For instance, if someone was deemed unclean for doing something like touching a dead body, they could not celebrate Passover with everyone else on the appointed time but had to wait a month to do it. To touch the ark of the covenant would mean instant death. While all of these rules had meaning beyond the rules themselves, it was also a test of obedience for the people of Israel who had to follow them.

Obedience is a word that many people do not like today. For many it is too authoritarian which in a postmodern society means someone is being marginalized and someone’s voice is not being heard. Sometimes I wonder how a postmodern thinker would have done in his/her conversation with God! As a result of our philosophy on life and errosion of authority through concepts like situational ethics, people prefer to pick and choose what they obey and what they do not. Most people see situations where obedience is necessary as opportunities to negotiate. If I can negotiate the terms I will obey you. This is kind of like what I experience with my kids. They want to obey the things that they deem easy and negotiate why they shouldn’t have to do the rest. Or if they know they are not going to win the negotiation they try to get me to give them something as motivation for doing something they should be doing in the first place. As a good parent, I can’t allow my boys to set terms or negotiate with me or they will grow up thinking they only have to do the right thing or submit to authorities if they feel like it and my life with them would be miserable. Instead, because I love them, I have to set up boundaries and rules that they must obey so they can learn appropriate boundaries and respect for authority.

Now I know some will think that something like that prevents them from being independent thinkers but it really doesn’t. It helps them to know the limits of what they can and can’t do and actually makes them more creative. Ask a child to build a sand castle on a beach and he goes wild trying to figure out how to make it happen because of all the space. Tell him to build a sand castle in a sand box and he suddenly has the appropriate boundaries to thrive. In our lives we need boundaries as adults just as our kids do. God puts boundaries in place in our lives because he loves us and knows what is best just as I as a parent put boundaries on my kids because I love them. When we obey completely without negotiation we should our love for him and our complete trust that he has our best interests at heart. When we choose to negotiate or partially obey we show that we really don’t trust God and we think we know better in some areas of life. How does your current obedience show your trust in God?

Lord, help me to trust you in everything in my life. I want to hear you and obey you because I know your way is better than anything I could dream up. Please help me to walk in step with you not negotiate, partially obey, or walk ahead of you. Amen.

Living with Holy Urgency

Today I read Leviticus 22-23. Reading about the various rules God gave on how to sacrifice and when to celebrate and remember it strikes me how we have forgotten to takes those times enough to gain some kind of rhythm in life when it comes to our faith. More and more people are trying to fit God in instead of fitting their schedule in around God. I notice this in my own life and I am convicted again about the importance of setting the stage for God’s presence in our lives. Sure we go to church on the weekends and have small group during the week which is a good rhythm to have. I pray with the boys at night and we all spend time in the word with our own quiet times and even journal about it. But there is still something about a holy assembly, anticipated times that are marked out to rest and focus on God.

This weekend at the 9am service, Matt Carter spoke about living with a holy urgency and seeing our lives as but a brief moment in the scheme of eternity and living every moment as if it was our last. This really spoke to me because I struggle with whether my life is having the impact it should with the gifts and abilities the Lord has given me. I know I am in a historic church and place so the potential for big impact is huge. I feel like there are some things the Lord has put on my heart are important and I need to find a way to help the kingdom in the way I feel God is calling me to do. I really was inspired by thinking about my life as a vapor, as something that I need to give every moment my best effort and full attention. I know if I do that and fully establish a rhythm to life that saturates my mind and soul in the things of the Lord I will last the long haul and my family will be blessed as a result as well.

Lord, I want to serve you with all of my energy. I want to give you my best in all that I do and run hard with the life you have given me remembering the rhythm to life that you established from the beginning. Please help me to leave it all on the field for the kingdom and use me to have an impact around the world. Amen.

Meeting God

Today I read Exodus 1-3. The places where God meets us in our lives are always times where we are surprised and when God sets our lives in motion in a certain direction. There is something about how God works with us that he is always guiding us to the place he wants us to be but the path to get there is as important sometimes as the outcome itself. Here was Moses, a man who had grown up in a foreign culture, knowing little of his Hebrew background, yet still called by God to be the leader of his people as they left their captivity in Egypt. Moses had to be a strong man based on his killing of the Egyptian who was beating a slave and his chasing off the men who were harassing the women at the well in Midian. He also had a lack of confidence since he was concerned about how the people would receive him and having to have backing by knowing God’s name, etc. It took a conversation with God through a burning bush to call Moses to the job God had for him that he would invest in for the rest of his life.

I think about my own life and the burning bush experiences I have had. The last thing I ever wanted to do was be a Pastor. I felt unworthy to handle the task so God sends me to Promise Keepers in Oakland to hear Kenneth Ulmer talk about all the guys in the Bible God used who had problems that made them seem unworthy. I tried to meet God half way by getting my counseling degree so he sent pain from a kidney stone and my hearing the words Jesus gave to Peter when he went back to fishing instead of doing the work of the church, “feed my sheep” to tell me I should pursue ministry. I used my wife as an excuse and when the bill for what seminary would cost came in she told me to send the bill in faith instead of telling me there was no way we could do it. When money became an issue he sent help through my great uncle who paid for the rest of my seminary. Time and time again God has shown up in my life and given me personal burning bush experiences to help keep me on track and moving in the direction he wants me to go. It seems at times like he is moving really slow or all my dreams keep getting put on hold or may never come to fruition. Yet in all of this I am constantly learning that I just need to remain faithful and keep walking one step at at time. As I do this, I learn more and more about the life God has for me and I see how my character needs to continually grow as I seek to become more like Christ.

Lord, please help me to remain faithful to you. I don’t want to leave my first love or go off the path. I want to be a man who finishes strong and finishes well. Please give me wisdom beyond my years as I asked for so long ago as a kid. Thanks for your presence in my life. Amen.

The Two Sides of Faith

Today I read Genesis 12-15. The story of Abram and the covenant God made with him is a great story. Here you have a guy that God chose to be the father of a nation through whom the Messiah would come. Abram wasn’t particularly special. He certainly wasn’t perfect as evidenced by his willingness to put his wife out there to save his own neck from the Pharaoh. He didn’t have any kind of status and was more of a wanderer and stranger in a strange land. He was one of the most unlikely people to be the father of a great nation since he didn’t have a son even in his old age.

Despite all the things that were against Abram being a great father of a great nation, the one thing Abram did have was faith. He had enough faith to start walking when God told him to move but didn’t tell him where he was going. He had enough faith to trust that God would take care of the issues between he and Lot by letting Lot take the best land. He had enough faith to not take all the possessions he had captured back in getting Lot and his family back and gave those things back to the King of Sodom knowing that God would take care of him and not wanting anyone else to get the credit. And he ultimately had faith to believe that God would somehow make him the father of a great nation despite all that was against him and God counted him righteous for doing so. What an incredible man he was.

Yet in the midst of all of that, our strengths can sometimes be the source of our sins in life. Here is this great man of faith who didn’t have enough faith that God could spare him from Pharaoh so he lies about his wife being his sister for fear of his own life. Crazy when you think about it. This was probably the easiest thing for God to do of all the things Abram believed yet he struggled to have faith in God’s protection in this one thing. This thing not only put his wife in jeopardy and who knows what happened if Pharaoh took her as his wife, it also probably caused deep pain and in their marriage. What is it about us that our source of greatest strength can sometimes be the source of our greatest weakness?

Lord, help me to be a man of faith like Abraham. You know I struggle at times with waiting for the plan to develop and in that struggle I can doubt and over think and process things. I am your servant Lord. Everything I have and everything I am is yours and I pray that my life will count for eternity. Please help me not to waste my life. Amen.

What's the Right Answer?

Today I read Job 40-42. The end of the book of Job is an interesting study in what it means to speak correctly about God and the danger of trying to figure out His motives. Here you have God putting Job in his place. Job has been asserting that he was innocent and this shouldn’t be happening to him. While he was right, even without knowing the conversation that God had with Satan behind the scenes, the issue God had with Job was not that assertion but the assertion that somehow God had made a mistake. It is dangerous ground to tread on when we try to figure out God’s motives and try to put him in the box of our own making that helps to make us comfortable with what he is doing. God spends time educating Job on how powerful he is and that Job doesn’t know enough to question Him. Job of course responds with repentance and new found realization of who God is in relation to who he (Job) is. Then in an unexpected turn of events God turns to Job’s friends and says that they had it all wrong in how they spoke about Him and that if it wasn’t for the sacrifice they were about to give and Job’s prayer on their behalf he would punish them. How did his friends speak wrong of God? Where did they go wrong?

As I shared earlier in my journal on putting God in a box I think Job’s friends relied more on their theology and systems of thought in explaining an unexplainable action of God. Their comfort was not in trusting God’s character and his ways but in their ability to come up with sound explanations that they could trust in. There is a subtle turn that any one of us can take when we make our answers as important as our faith and trust in God. This event was unexplainable so to speak. God had allowed injustice to happen to test Job’s faith and resolve. There was no debate over the fairness of that test. There was not really an explanation as to why God felt it necessary to prove Satan wrong by putting an innocent man like Job through this. Only in the mind of God is there an answer and He wasn’t giving it. Our attempts at coming to terms with the unexplainable things in life show where our faith and trust truly is. Sometimes the only answer is to wait and renew our faith and trust in God.

As I think about all the things I have seen and gone through in life, none of them is as horrific as what we see in the life of Job. Yes some are as painful and do include loss, but not at the magnitude that Job endured. I think of how I have handled some of the situations in a God honoring way with my faith in Him being my only strength. I can also think of situations that I handled terribly and trusted my surroundings, or my own understanding, or my own theology and ended showing how weak I really am and how my faith is very frail. Faith really is a tricky thing because it is a moment by moment thing and just when you think your faith is strong something will happen and your reaction to it shows just how weak that faith really is. I want to be a man whose faith is the mark of who he is. That people are inspired to trust God more instead of look for more answers that make them feel better.

Lord, please strengthen my faith. I want to be strong in my faith and trust in you but I fall so short. Please make a me a man after your own heart and help me to model for my boys and those around me what it looks like to walk moment by moment with you. Amen.

Putting God in a Box

Today I read Job 14-16. I find it interesting how our good intentions to help can many times end up being a disaster. Here you have Job who is going through misery in just about every aspect of his life. He lost his kids, his house, his servants, his health. He has his wife tell him he should just curse God and die. He is going through every loss imaginable and now his friends are stepping in to set him straight on his theology. I almost wonder if they were doing it out of concern for him or in an effort to convince themselves that the right answers still applied given all that Job had gone through. On the surface there was no reason Job should have gone through what he did. He was righteous and lived the life God commanded in every way. Yet even with that, Job experiences all of these losses and pain. The formula didn’t add up. It shouldn’t have been that way. God should have been blessing this guy or at a bear minimum protecting him. Yet here sat Job the guy whose life circumstance couldn’t be answered easily with the standard lines of reason.

To make matters worse, this guy starts challenging the pat answers and points out the seeming injustice of the whole situation. When your world is built on your ability to understand it and have answers for all the anomalies the last thing you want is someone to challenge those answers. What if they are found wrong? How will you explain life? The problem was his friends put their faith and ability to navigate life in their answers not in God. This is a very dangerous place to live because putting your faith in your own understanding and having the right answers makes your faith vulnerable because it only takes one circumstance that you can’t explain to cause you to doubt and ditch your faith. This is what I see all the time in people who want to debate and fight over theological systems of thought. There is a desperation and anger in many cases with anyone who threatens the system. We have seen it though the centuries as men have murdered others over cries of heresy or fiercely ruined reputations and fortunes because the ideas that were shared were threatening. I believe that our faith should be in God and him alone. Our understanding does come from his Word and can be understood and applied. But when it comes to understanding God’s reasons for allowing things or working miracles, that is the realm we can’t enter because there is no way to fathom God’s thoughts. When our understanding of God’s reasons and our answers become more important that simply trusting God’s heart, we have wandered to a place of living under our own control dressed up in theological reasons and answers. There is value in having some answers or thoughts on why things happen but when those thoughts HAVE to apply in all cases, we put God in a box of our own creation, a box he refuses to stay in.

Lord, help me not to put you in a box. I want to be in awe of you every step of my life. Please help me to let go of my attempts to explain everything you do and trust you more. Let me faith be evident in my life and please help me to seek you every step of the way. I want to follow you with all I’ve got. Amen.